If you’re having certain food cravings during your period, it’s likely related to your levels of hormones or serotonin. Common cravings tend to be carbohydrates and sweets.

Stop apologizing for wanting to inhale some chocolate and chips with a side of tacos just before your period.

Period cravings and hunger are real and there are reasons — legitimate, scientifically proven reasons — why you and a lot of other period-having folks want to eat all the things before your period.

Blame it on the hormones.

A 2016 study suggests that changes in levels of hormones estrogen and progesterone cause cravings for high-carb and sweet foods before your period.

Your hormones may not be the only driving force behind your desire to eat all the goodies in your pantry before Flo comes to town, though. Eating all the foods can also help you combat all the feels that accompany the premenstrual stage of your cycle.

Your body releases serotonin when you eat starchy foods and sweets. Serotonin is a chemical that boosts feelings of happiness. A boost in good feelings is always nice, but even more so when you’re whacked-out hormones have you feeling all PMS-y.

Compulsive eating and food cravings before a period may also be signs of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is a more severe form of PMS.

If you’re one of the 14 percent who has irregular periods, you may be more prone to binge eating, according to research.

You could be, but even if you’re craving pickles dipped in ice cream, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re pregnant. PMS is still the probable cause.

Sure, pregnancy cravings and hunger are common, but so are aversions to certain foods. This means being totally put off by the mere sight or smell of certain foods, including those you loved prepregnancy. Food aversions are common in pregnancy, but not in PMS.

Pregnancy is also likely to cause other symptoms long before the cravings kick in, like:

  • missed period
  • nausea
  • nipple changes, such as darker or larger areola

All that said, PMS and pregnancy do share similar symptoms. If there’s any chance you could be pregnant, taking a pregnancy test is the only way to know for sure.

Period-related cravings usually start around 7 to 10 days before your period starts. This is also when other PMS symptoms tend to start, like changes to your bowel habits (hellooo period poop and farts), headaches, acne, and bloating.

The urge to stuff one’s face usually disappears once your period starts.

Oh yeah. It’s not just OK, but it’s important to listen to your body before your period.

Certain cravings may be happening for a reason, and your body may need more calories.

This isn’t to say that you should be overindulging on the daily, of course. But, if your body’s begging you for something different ahead of your period, don’t beat yourself up for eating more than you might normally.

Paying attention to your body and its needs is key.

Yeah, that tends to happen when we eat foods high in refined sugar, salt, and carbs.

Swapping out what you’re craving for healthier alternatives or limiting portions of those crave-able items can help give your body what it’s screaming for without making you feel worse.

Read on for some swaps for common period cravings.

Reaching for simple carbs when you’re feeling tired and icky can make you feel better because of the increase in serotonin, but the effect is short lived. Have too many and you could end up feeling even more sluggish.

Instead of simple carbs, like chips, bread, or pasta, choose complex carbs that increase serotonin but make you feel better longer. These include things like beans and lentils, brown rice, and oats.

Pro tip

Spaghetti squash is a great alternative to pasta that’s low in calories and carbs and packed with vitamins and nutrients. You can use it in place of pasta in any of your favorite dishes, like spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese, or lasagna (plus, you can still have garlic bread on the side).

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Tempting as it may be to eat an entire bag of Oreos when your sweet tooth is begging for satisfaction, too much sugar usually leads to a pretty unpleasant crash.

Go ahead and have a cookie or two if you feel inclined. However, there are other ways to satisfy a sugar craving. Some sweet and healthy ideas:

Got a sweet tooth that won’t quit? Consider these 19 foods that fight sugar cravings.

Chocolate is one of the most common foods craved by people before their periods. Lucky for me — er — you, there are benefits to chocolate.

Stick to dark chocolate if you want to reap the health benefits of this craving. Dark chocolate’s high in antioxidants and minerals and just a square or two of high-quality dark chocolate can often do the trick.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: PMS can make you feel like crap on a cracker emotionally. Sadness, mood swings, and weepiness are common symptoms that can extend a few days into your period.

Instead of trying to stuff all the feelings down with a fistful of gummy bears, try activities that have been proven to increase your body’s happy hormones: endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine.

By all means, keep eating those gummy bears, just make sure you’re doing something else for your mental health.

If you want to improve your mood and increase your energy, you can:

  • take a walk
  • go for a run
  • have sex — partnered or solo
  • watch a funny movie
  • talk to a friend
  • cuddle your pet

Wanting to eat more than usual before your period and having cravings is pretty common and not usually anything to worry about.

That said, there are some circumstances that could indicate an underlying issue.

See your doctor if your hunger or cravings:

  • persist throughout the month
  • are a way to cope with persistent or severe feelings of depression, anxiety, or stress
  • lead to significant weight gain
  • cause you anxiety or distress
  • impact your treatment or recovery from an eating disorder
  • interfere with your ability to perform at school or work

It’s also important to see a doctor if you’re craving nonfood items, which is medically called pica.

Pica is more common in pregnant people and children but can also develop in people with certain conditions.

Cravings for nonfood items, such as ice, clay, dirt, or paper, could result from an iron deficiency, which is especially common in people with heavy periods and worth following up about with your doctor.

Rest assured you’re not the only one grabbing ever snack in your pantry before your period. Instead of beating yourself up over your cravings, listen to your body and give it what it needs.

If that means that once a month it needs pizza and ice cream, then so be it.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddleboard.